Monday, August 2, 2010

Cambodia’s Angkor Casino To Break Ground In October

2 Aug, 2010 / GamblingCompliance Ltd. / Bill Spain

Building work on Cambodia’s biggest casino will start in October – with Harrah’s and MGM among potential investors in the resort, according to developers.
South Korean real-estate developer Intercity Group will build the $470m integrated resort and casino in the popular tourist region of Siem Reap, with the aim of targeting the growing number of Chinese visitors to Southeast Asia.

The resort – 195 miles northwest of the capital Phnom Penh – is in a region which attracts over a million tourists a year to its famous Angkor temples, with about 580,000 flying directly into Siem Reap.

James Cho, vice-president, said the construction of the Water Park complex, with three hotels, a gaming centre, shopping and convention centres and an 18-hole golf course, will start in October and should open in early 2012.

He said that the casino, which was granted a licence in 2008, aimed to draw visitors from nearby Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore and particularly China.

He said: "They're visiting Singapore, they're visiting Southeast Asia, and we just think that right now it's a very good time, it's the right time. Asian gaming is hitting Cambodia right now.

"With the Chinese, the increase in the middle class from China, Southeast Asia is a very good market. There is no visa restriction like they have in Macau.”

Cho said around 2.2 million tourists a year visited Cambodia and 1.3 million of them went to the temples in Siem Reap. The new resort is hoping to attract 60 to 70 percent of them.

Cho said the Intercity Group casino would be the first sited away from country's borders and was part of the Cambodian government's effort to attract more tourists into the country.

"They're making it a very rare exception and allowing a resort with gaming to be built," he said.

He said that Harrah’s and MGM Resorts International, the largest casino owner on the Las Vegas strip, are among potential investors to visit the site.

“All these big guys are interested in operation management deals,” Cho said. “We’re confident because the feasibility is there and gaming concessions in this region are so rare.”

Despite the early successes of Resorts World Sentosa, which opened in Singapore in February and Marina Bay Sands which opened in April, which have helped drive awareness of the potential economic value of casino development, observers caution funding for the casino may remain an issue.

Cho said the tourist draw of Angkor Wat, a 12th century Hindu temple, an international airport and “tons” of incentives from the government, including corporate tax holidays and low gaming levies, would make the project viable.

He said: “Not everybody’s going to gamble in Macau or Singapore - Cambodia is family friendly and it’s cheaper.”

Hyung Joo Kim, Intercity’s chief executive officer, is scheduled to meet Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen this week in the capital Phnom Penh.

He will be accompanied by several partners in the project, including Tobin Prior, a former executive with Kerzner International who led that firm’s failed bid for a casino in Singapore in 2006.

The Cambodian government had a revenue of $19m from its 29 casinos in 2008, according to Finance Ministry statistics. That fell to $17m last year, because of a drop in tourist arrivals and diplomatic disagreements with neighbouring Thailand.

Most forms of gambling are forbidden in Thailand but thousands of Thais regularly visit massive casino complexes just over the border with Cambodia.

NagaCorp is currently the only casino operator in Cambodia, with a licence to run casinos within 200 km (124 miles) of Phnom Penh until 2065.

NagaCorp recently reported a decrease in revenue of 39.1 percent to $117.8m for 2009, down from $193.5m in 2008, with net profit down 36.3 percent to $25.5m.

In 2009 60 percent of NagaCorp’s VIP gamblers were from Malaysia, 15 percent from Vietnam and 12 percent from each of Singapore and China.

Sean Monaghan, an industry expert who formerly worked as a gaming analyst in Singapore said junket operators in Thailand and China would be vital to the success of the project.

He said: “Even though Siem Reap sounds goods, most of the people that go there aren’t really casino players. You have to have a very, very solid team to pull that financing off.”


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